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Landing Your First Job
Looking to enter the workforce? Trying to adjust to your first job? Ready to make the most of your paychecks? Finds answers to these and other questions here.

Understand What Employers Want

The key to getting the job you want: Give potential employers what they want.

What are employers looking for in employees? What traits are considered valuable and will help you come across favorably during an interview?

If you demonstrate these attributes in your application, resume, and during interviews, your odds of getting the job you want will drastically improve.

Be a team player.

In this day of rush and hurry, and impoliteness, good people skills and the ability to communicate well with others is extremely valued in the workplace.

Team players are needed, and employers are looking for those with the ability to work well with others. This means being able to work well with others and being supportive of co-workers, instead of sabotaging them or trying to make others "look bad" (often at the expense of the project or task). It also means respecting the thoughts and opinions of coworkers.

Griping at others, criticizing, blaming, or being known as "difficult" is not okay in today's workplace. Smiling, communicating well, and knowing how to be gracious and flexible is. Employers consider a positive outlook and enthusiasm for the job important, as well as taking responsibility for one's actions and personal integrity. Employers are looking for employees that they can trust, and whom they believe will do a good job.

Self-esteem and confidence are considered part of a positive outlook. Employees with a good attitude will contribute towards reaching the company's goals, and adapt well to the culture of the workplace.

Be a hard worker.

This probably comes as no surprise, but the hard working and productive employee is highly valued by employers (and has the best chance of being hired during interviews). This means being willing to do occasional overtime when required, or doing your best work (and not taking frequent breaks or "goofing off") when on the job.

This trait is also related to self-motivation and the desire to succeed. Employers stated in surveys that the self-driven employee who wants to achieve success at work (and takes the necessary steps to ensure it) usually does.

Know your product.

Employers value the employee who takes an interest in their company, and understands thoroughly the product or expertise that is the basis of company profits. They also consider enthusiasm and a high opinion of the company and the position positive qualities. Learning above and beyond the "minimum", being able to help customers, and actively seeking to increase the company client base are other valued traits according to employers.

The job seeker can demonstrate this enthusiasm and interest in the company by doing "homework" before a job interview, researching the company, its products, its client base, and possibly having ideas on marketing or increasing production.

Don’t be late!

Late is not great, but getting to work on time is. Being careful to not overuse sick time is a plus in an employer's eyes. Employers want employees that can be relied on. The employee who forces others to cover for them, or who constantly shows that they are unreliable, will have difficulty keeping (or finding) a job.

Know how to bend.

The modern workplace is a rapidly changing environment, as technology changes and companies adapt to new methods. The employee who is adaptable and willing to learn new methods will do well. Some employers may use untraditional methods, or have jobs which combine several tasks and different skills in one job ("multitasking" is the byword used). The employee who has a good attitude towards change is viewed very positively according to employer surveys.

Learning never ends.

Employers want people who use critical thinking skills at work. It is not okay to have the attitude; "I already know everything." (Realistically, no one does). The ability to solve problems, make decisions, and find creative solutions are valued traits. The person who is constantly learning, and seeking to improve their knowledge base, is the one that employers will hire.

Use what you have already learned.

Employers value employees who have the schooling and background necessary for the position. In fact, salaries are often scaled in part according to the amount of education the person has obtained. Incentives and bonuses (and promotions) are given to those who put in the time and effort to obtain a degree (or even an advanced degree) and certifications to enhance their value in the workplace. Having this educational background will also give an applicant the edge over others when applying for a position.

It’s not just talking.

Good, clear communication, whether during an oral presentation, or when writing a company memo, are valued traits in employees. Knowing how to listen is also another equally important skill, according to employers.

Don’t be afraid of commitment.

While some "job hopping" is expected in certain industries, many employers (who don't want to have to constantly train new employees) consider a track record of staying with a company for several years a plus. In fact, some employers look very closely at how many times an applicant has changed positions in the past few years when considering who to hire. Trying to find a better position within a company, or trying to negotiate a salary increase before changing jobs are all considered positive actions, since they indicates company loyalty.

During an interview, an employer may ask questions to see how much company loyalty the person has, such as "Why are you looking for another position?" or "What did you not like about your last job?" It is important to not create the impression that you are using your jobs as "stepping stones" as you leap from company to company for higher pay. The interviewer will naturally assume that you will do the same at his company.

Also, never disparage your former employer in an interview, since this creates the impression of a poor attitude (see trait number one above). Instead, try to be positive about your current job, while stating that while you enjoy it, you are looking for more challenge, or a chance to make a real contribution in the workplace.

Apply what you know.

The less training the employer has to do, usually the more favorably the applicant is viewed. In industries driven by technical or programming expertise, this becomes especially important, and the applicant should emphasize their related skills. Often, the person with experience relevant to a position will be favored over the one with no experience.

Computer skills are also becoming more important in many workplaces, and employees with this ability will have an edge over those who don't.

The person who has the traits mentioned in this article will be the one that employers have stated they are looking for. They are enthusiastic, eager to learn, and are at work not "putting in time" to get a paycheck, but because their job interests them. They are using their creativity and expertise to help their company grow and expand its client base. The person who develops these traits will do well, whether looking for a job, or for a promotion within a company.

© 2000 - 2007 Kenmare Publishing

Prepare to Find a Job

Looking for a job is work. Make sure you work hard at it.

Where do you find jobs, how do you apply for them, and, most importantly, how do you get them? These are tasks that take a lot more work than one thinks.

The more people you know and the more you follow-up on contacts, the greater your options.

While any job that increases your income is probably worth considering, the real challenge is to find a job you really enjoy that pays well.

Get organized.

Finding suitable employment is full time job. Keeping a log helps us organize the job search and remember what is being experienced.

  • Dates
  • Places you go
  • Names of the people you meet
  • Impressions-What Happened?

It’s not just what you know, but who you know.

Humans are afraid of people they do not know and humans take care of their buddies. It has been suggested that as many as 7 out 10 positions are filled through personal contacts. The better the job and the better the pay, the greater the chance it will be offered through a personal contact. If this is true, job seekers would be wise to make a list of every person they know and contact them for assistance finding a job.

After we have exhausted our list of every person we know, if we are still not working, we need to meet more people. Where? Every person you meet may be able to help you find a job. Be nice to people. Get out into your community. Be willing to help others and you may meet someone who can help you. Learn names. Call people by their name. Continue to introduce yourself until you are sure they know who you are.

  • Attend Community Meetings- The most active people are involved.
  • Volunteer- It is good for your soul and you will meet people.
  • Join Clubs-Those who join very often have many other contacts.
  • Visit Places of Business-Find out if there is a potential job.

Know your potential employer’s business.

Whether you go on your own or are sent, the first visit to a prospective employer is a time to collect information.

  • Write down the name of every person encountered. Names are very important.
  • Be observant. What is the company selling? How are they advertising? Are the employees happy on the job? Are they professional? How were you treated? If you have not asked for a job and are not selling anything, then are you not a potential customer? Actually you are shopping for a job and you are trying to determine if this company is worth your effort. Look at their signs. Read their literature. What message is the company sending out to the universe?
  • Ask yourself, "Why do I want to work for this organization?" Newspaper stories or magazines article may be available at the local library. The employer may be in the yellow pages or advertise over the radio or local television. When we can speak intelligently about a place of business, we have given that employer respect. By focusing on the employer we are better able to determine if the company can meet our needs. By focusing on the employer we are displaying interest in the needs of the company.

Make a good first impression. It does count.

If we accept the idea that the hiring process is uncomfortable for both the job seeker and the employer we will take great care in creating a positive image before asking for a job.

Be aware of your appearance. Extremely beautiful people, with charming personalities who smell good, are well groomed and neatly dressed, have little trouble getting job offers. The rest of us should look in the mirror or ask someone we trust for an honest opinion of the image we are projecting. We can determine what outfit to wear by looking at what other employees wear to work. Would not jeans be more appropriate than a blue suit if applying for work on a farm?

Since we can not hide our energy, we would be well advised not to seek opportunities when we are depressed or feeling ill. Smile because happy people get hired faster. Basically, the object is to be yourself. Most employers prefer people who are open, honest and speak straight across, person to person. It is not necessarily the person with the most skills who gets hired. It is a person who the employer likes and believes will fit into the organization. Success in establishing comfort naturally increases with additional visits. The impression is dependent upon how we look, how we feel and also, how we act.

How we fill out an application is as important as the information we put down. We must follow directions, be neat, complete and avoid spelling errors. The complete application is a reflection of how we deal with paper.

Practice makes perfect, or at least good enough to get the job.

Be able to briefly talk about your education, experience and abilities in relationship to the job for which you are applying. Be ready to discuss what you have learned about the company that has motivated you to apply for the job. Practice means saying the words out loud, not to memorize, rather just to have experience saying the words. Thinking about what you will say is not the same as saying what you will say.

Bottom line, employers want people who will come to work on time, every day they are scheduled, who can get along with the other employees and are willing to do the job the way the employer wants it done. In essence, every job requires on the job is training. New employees must learn the rules of the organization and how to get along with the other employees. Every job is hardest at the beginning and gets easier with experience. Saying something like, "I know I can learn your method of operation," tells an employer you have faith in your ability to learn the way the employer wants it done.

  • Before asking for a job become a person the employer knows or at least, establish a level of comfort.
  • Before asking for a job, be able to speak intelligently about the organization.
  • After asking for a Job, Do Follow-up.

A short thank you note reminds the employer that we have applied for a job. We can express appreciation for the courtesy of an interview and confirm that we are interested in the position. If we do not hear from the employer within a reasonable period of time, we can always stop by and remind the employer we are still interested. You can say something like, "Just stopped by to say hello. I know you are busy. I do not want to be a pest, but I do not want you to forget me." If you really want the job, you can continue to make follow-up contacts until the employer hires you or tells you clearly that you are not being considered.

1©2007 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company.
2National Employment Counseling Association.

Apply for Several Jobs

Filing job applications and resumes is a big part of job searching. Make sure your personal documents, including cover letters, are in great shape.

Your job search “sales documents”—your applications, resumes, and cover letters—will open doors if prepared correctly. Take the time to polish yours.

Complete many applications.

In today’s world of thousands of applicants trying to get a few jobs, your application for employment often will be used as a prescreening device. You will want to be sure it is as complete, accurate, and as positive as possible.

The best way to prepare to complete job applications is to practice by downloading some sample applications, completing them, and then reference them for the real deal. You can find these through some of the major job sites, like or Yahoojobs.

You might also practice by starting with employers with whom you do not care if you get a job or not.

Here is the information you will need to complete an application for employment:

Personal Information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • City, State, Zip Code
  • Phone Number
  • Eligibility to Work in US
  • Felony convictions
  • If under age, working paper certificate


  • Schools/Colleges Attended
  • Major
  • Degree/Diploma
  • Graduation Dates(s)

Position Applied For Information:

  • Title of the job you are applying for
  • Hours/days available to work
  • When you can start work

Employment Information:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers of previous employers
  • Supervisor's name
  • Dates of employment
  • Salary
  • Reason for Leaving


  • List of three references - names, job title or relationship, addresses, phone numbers

Resume (if you have one)

Remember to:

  • Complete all requested information.
  • Write clearly and neatly, using black or blue ink.
  • Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Proofread your job application form before turning it in.
  • List your most recent job first when completing employment information.
  • List your most recent education first. Include vocational schools and training programs as well as college and high school.
  • References don't necessarily have to be professional. If you have volunteered you can use members of the organizations that you have helped or if you are a student use your teachers. In all cases, ask for permission prior to using the person for a reference.
  • Follow the directions! The most important rule to remember when applying for jobs is to follow the directions. There is not much more annoying to hiring managers than job seekers who don't follow the rules!

Complete a job application in person.

Applying for job in-person is a little different than applying for employment online. It's not as complicated, but, you will need to be prepared to apply and interview on the spot.

  • If you are applying for a position at a large company, call first to see if there are openings or visit the customer service center or human resources office and ask if you can complete an application for employment. At a smaller employer, ask for the manager.
  • You may be asked to fill out an application at a hiring kiosk. In this case, you will use a computer or a free-standing kiosk to apply.
  • Also be prepared to complete a paper job application. So, bring the information you'll need to fill out an application with you.
  • Bring a pen so you don't need to borrow one to fill out the application.
  • Know what days/hours you are available to work.
  • Be prepared for a brief on-the-spot interview.
  • Dress should be, at the least, neat and tidy. Business casual is usually appropriate.
  • Make sure your hair and fingernails are well groomed.
  • Wear moderate shoes.
  • Follow-up - call in a week or so to check on the status of your application.

Complete an application online.

There are hundreds of sites where you can post your resume online and complete an online job application. Some sites let you upload an existing resume with the click of a button. On other sites, you can cut and paste or use a resume building wizard. There are also resume posting services that will post your resume to the top sites for you.

If you are interested in working for a particular company visit their web site. Career information is usually listed in the "About Us" section of the site.

Complete an application via email.

When applying for jobs via email, write your cover letter in the body of an email message. Proofread your email for grammar and spelling (do not trust spell check software). Remember, this is your chance to make a critical first impression; even an emailed note needs to be professional and error-free.

Be brief and to the point. Your cover letter should not be any longer than two or three short paragraphs. Make sure you include a signature with your full name, email address and phone number. Include the title of the position you are applying for in the subject line of your message.

Be sure that your email address/screen name has a professional tone. If the job posting asks you to send an attachment, send your resume as an MSWord document. 1

Create your resume.

Writing a resume is intimidating to everyone from the upper management to the entry level applicant. After all, it’s supposed to illustrate all of your working strengths in a few easily understood words! But having a well-organized resume is easier than you think and will help you apply for jobs, interview, and impress potential hiring managers.

Before putting your pen to paper (or fingers to the keys), begin by determining your objective (do this prior to writing the resume). You should clearly state what sort of a job you want, and know what kinds of skills and experiences are needed to do well in that job. Even if you decide to change your job objective later, it is very important that you decide on a temporary objective for now.

After your objective is determined, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective. As noted above, you have a very small window of time to get the interest of a hiring manager, therefore being general and scattered will insure that your resume is filed in the "circular file"-i.e.-the trash can.

Therefore, it is essential that you take the time before you start your resume to form a clear and targeted objective.

Now that you have your objective, you're on your way. Now lets begin the resume writing process. Keep in mind, the single and most important goal of a resume is to obtain an interview.

It's a marketing tool to get you in the company and in front of your potential boss – that’s it. Once in, you will need to do the sales pitch, and close the deal. With that said, you do not want to go into detail about every accomplishment in your resume.

Strive to be clear and concise, as the sole purpose is to have a potential employer contact you for an interview. Bottom line – you should put yourself in the shoes of the resume reader - when looking at the job qualifications needed for the position; what would you be looking for in a candidate - Obviously, that is what you should include in your resume.

In the body of your resume, use bullet points with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs. As noted above, resumes are read quickly (usually 10-30 seconds).

Therefore, having key phrases standing alone and bulleted will help the reader see the important information at a glance - while at the same time absorbing the most important information. Again, don't worry about the specifics; you will go into the details during the interview.

Use action words - words like prepared, managed, developed, monitored, and presented will cause your resume to stand out. In addition to standing out to a reader - you are also insuring that if your resume is scanned, the computer will pick up on the words.

You read correctly, some companies now scan in your resume, and have computers pick the resumes to be looked at. The computers are looking for one thing – they’re looking for keywords that have been picked by the hiring manager.

These are action key words that relate to the position; therefore not including them could mean your resume is disregarded as a "non-match". I’ve devoted a section to resume format, and will deal with how to format your resume for computer scanners.

You should always use %'s, $'s and #'s. Percentages, dollar totals, and numbers stand out in the body of a resume. I’ve included an example below of a job duty described with them (correct), and without (incorrect). As is obvious with the below examples, being specific does not mean being lengthy.

Incorrect: Sold advertising to 15 companies
Correct: Closed 15 strategic accounts billing in excess of $20M annually

Highlight your strengths, and what is most relevant to the potential employer. Due to the fact that most resumes are typically reviewed in 10-30 seconds, put forth the effort and determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective.

Put the strong and most relevant points first where they are more apt to be read. Doing this will hook the reader, and the rest of your resume will reel them in.

Match the needs of the hiring company - Review job postings online and in the newspapers for positions that interest you. Each listing will almost always have a brief blurb about the company and the position available.

Read the job description closely, and use the key words listed in these ads, and match them to the bullet points in your resume. Chances are that you have some of these as key points already, however if you have missed any, be sure to add them to your resume.

It sounds obvious, but its worth mentioning that using a custom resume instead of a generic one will greatly increase your chances of an interview, as you will be a better match in the eyes of the reader – how can you not be? – you’ve tailored your resume to the position.

Above all in your resume and interview - you must be positive. Therefore, avoid including negative and irrelevant points. If you feel your graduation date will subject you to age discrimination, leave it off your resume. If you do some duties in your current job that don't support your job search objective, do not include them. Focus on the duties that do support your objective, and leave off irrelevant personal information like your race, weight, and height.

Have you taken an advertising class? Let me give you one tidbit from my studies that will improve the appearance of your resume. White space is the open area of an ad, and white space is important to your resume.

Open up the newspaper, and take note of which ads first catch your eye. Are they the ads that are jammed full of text and pictures, or are they ads that have a large amount of unused space ("white space").

This is done to grab your attention, as you are always attracted to open areas. For this reason, don't worry if you are having a hard time filling the page with text; increase your line spacing to compensate – this will increase the white space – and really, that’s a good thing.

How long should my resume be? What size font should I use? - The font size should be no smaller than 10 point, and the length of your resume should be 1-2 pages. Yes, you read correctly; you can use more than one page. But remember, keep it concise. It's ok to use 2 pages for your resume, however it’s not necessary.

Ask a friend, and get an outside opinion on your resume before sending it off. You could have a 3rd party or resume critique service review your resume.

You are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to note all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Having someone besides you review your resume will allow you to note how others will view your marketing materials - would your resume impress them? If not, why? Don't settle for - "it's good". You must encourage the 3rd party to give you feedback and ask questions.

These questions from the reader can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume. Take their comments into consideration, and revise your resume to include these items.

In addition to adding in missed items, their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader. This valuable input will allow you to clarify your resume based on this input.

OK, you’re ready to start applying for positions – When submitting your resume, you should apply for some jobs that appear to be above your qualifications, apply to positions that are a match, and apply to positions which may be beneath you.

Why? Perhaps the position beneath will turn out to be more than it appeared once you interview for them. Or perhaps once you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities. If nothing else, interviewing more and more will increase your interviewing skills.

Like anything else, repetition will decrease your nervousness, and increase your skills at attacking the tough questions.

Write your cover letter.

In years past, you slapped your resume and a cover letter into an envelope and mailed it to all of the employers on your list. Not so anymore. Often, your cover letter is not even read unless you resume first passes a pre-screening. Other times, your cover “letter” is really a cover “email.” You always want to be ready to whip up a cover letter.

When writing your cover letter (and resume), keep in mind that the reviewer is only interested in one thing; the facts. Do not think of your cover letter as an autobiography; it should be brief and to the point.

The purpose of the cover letter and resume should be one thing – it should demonstrate that you meet or exceed the requirements listed in the job description. It should demonstrate that you’re interested in the position, and that you are available to accept the position if offered. Additional information beyond this can be counterproductive, as it dilutes the core purpose of the cover letter and resume.

When writing the cover letter, avoid negatives. A cover letter is not the place to explain why you left or are leaving an employer, why there are gaps in your employment dates, etc. These "negatives" are best delivered in person during the interview so that your personality and can counter them.

Try to avoid a salary history in the cover letter. Even if the position specifically asks for your salary history, providing this information will more likely to cost you a job than not.

If the job ad specifically says that resumes without a salary history will not be considered, give a historical salary range, and state that your salary requirements are flexible based on the opportunity the position will provide.

Spend time thinking about the layout of your letter, and make it sure that it is easy on the eyes. It should be easy to scan the letter, and have a logical progression.

Keep in mind, the reviewer of your resume has 100's (if not 1,000s) of cover letters and resumes to look at, therefore make it easy for him/her to find the information you want to highlight.

Bunched up text in long paragraphs will frustrate anyone who has to review hundreds of resumes and cover letters a week. In addition to the layout, don't just repeat your resume. Your cover letter is not a summary of your resume; instead, it’s an introduction of yourself and an argument for why you are the best candidate for their company and the specific position - i.e. - avoid the generic cover letter (this point will be noted again in later tips).

PLEASE do NOT follow the advice of poorly written resume books and websites that advise on using platitudes and clichés in your cover letter. Resume reviewers do this for a living. They know that almost every candidate promises "excellent written and verbal communication skills", and the ability to "think outside the box" and "juggle multiple tasks".

The point here is to be different and stand out. The goal is to demonstrate your written communication skills by writing a good cover letter – Cutting and pasting a phrase from a cover letter / resume book is not impressive.

As noted above, personalize your cover letter if possible. Your cover letter should be addressed to a specific person - avoid the "Dear Sir or Madam".

Form letters insult the reviewer's intelligence and indicate that you, the writer, are broadcasting his/her resume to every employer in the area. Or you have not made an effort to learn more about the company.

Generic/canned cover letters can lead to failure. Even if you do not know the name of the recipient, you usually can find a contact name at the company fairly easily. Go to their company website, and search the "about us" pages for names of individuals to address your cover letter and resume to. It takes a few seconds; however will make your letter stand out. 2

1©2007 About, Inc., A part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
2© 2007 How to Write A All Rights Reserved.

Interview Like a Pro

You got the interview! Time to prepare, rehearse . . . and deliver!

Never improvise during a job interview. Know what the employer is looking for, present yourself as the best solution, and project the right attitude.

Do not rely on your application or resume to do the selling for you. Interviewers will want you to speak for yourself.

Your resume was most likely pre-screened by the HR department, and your interviewer hasn’t even seen your resume. Sell yourself!

When you are answering the interviewers questions, look the prospective employer in the eye while speaking. Show enthusiasm; if you are interested in the opportunity, enthusiastic feedback can enhance your chances of being considered.

The bottom line is that you want appear confident with yourself and your background. Don't inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, etc., on the initial interview unless you are sure the employer is interested in hiring you.

If the interviewer asks what salary you want, indicate what you've earned but that you're more interested in opportunity than in a specific salary.

Prepare in advance

Preparation will make or break your interview. This may sound obvious, but it's not. Below are some simple steps to prepare for the interview.

Personal - Know your own qualifications and how they relate to the position. Review your skills and the character traits you have that will help the company's bottom line. Mentally review your past achievements and be prepared to describe your work experience in detail.

Almost every interviewer will ask you: "Tell me about yourself." When answering, put yourself in the employer's shoes. If you were hiring someone for the position, what would you want to know?

Industry - Know everything you can about the industry. Find out as much as you can about the position, the company and its needs.

Knowing these facts will enable you to prove how your background meets those needs. Research the company on the Internet and at your local library. Employers are as interested in your questions as they are in your answers.

It is a huge plus if you ask intelligent questions about the position, the company and the industry.

Make a good first impression

The first few minutes are critical, and will set the tone for the interview. To succeed, you must project enthusiasm about the position, show confidence and competence. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you would be an asset to the company.

Visual Image - Dress appropriate for the position you're seeking. Your attire must fit well within the office and be immaculate. If you don't know what the typical attire at the company is, ask when setting up the interview.

Your shoes should be polished; pants/skirts and shirts pressed. Clean hair and fingernails are essential. Avoid excessive cologne, jewelry or make-up.

Be Prompt - Be on time! Allow extra time for traffic, parking and slow elevators. Do whatever it takes to arrive a few minutes early.

If necessary, drive to the company the night before and time yourself. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.

Here are some tips to remember

The Clothes Make the Job Seeker. Make sure your interview clothes are clean and pressed a few days beforehand. The last thing you want to worry about the night before an interview is pleading with your drycleaner or getting burned by a hot iron.

Don't Forget Your Resumes! Make good-quality copies of your resume on a nice grade of paper. Take more copies than you will possibly need -- just in case. Store the copies in a folder where they will stay clean and unwrinkled.

Organize your portfolio, tear sheets, professional reference lists or any other papers you think your prospective employer would like to see. Make sure your purse or briefcase is stocked with everything else you'll need: A working pen (no pencils!), a notebook, breath mints, a comb, the umbrella I mentioned and some tissues.

Practice Makes Perfect. Like most things, people get better at interviewing with a little practice. Dedicate one night prior to the interview to a mock Q and A.

You can set this up with a friend or conduct the interview yourself with a list of frequently-asked interview questions and a mirror. Don't panic if, during the actual interview, you are not asked any of the questions you practiced. The point of practicing is to "warm up" to the process of answering questions on the fly.

Do Your Homework. Spend at least two days before the interview researching the company. Take notes. Memorize important facts. A little preparation goes a long way. A couple of hours researching the company and practicing answers to interview question can give you that extra bit of confidence you need to ace the interview.1

Interviewing tips

Prep for the top ten questions.

Too many job seekers stumble through interviews as if the questions are coming out of left field. But many interview questions are to be expected. Study this list and plan your answers ahead of time so you'll be ready to deliver them with confidence.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

This is the most dreaded question of all. Handle it by minimizing your weakness and emphasizing your strengths. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate on professional traits: "I am always working on improving my communication skills to be a more effective presenter. I recently joined Toastmasters, which I find very helpful."

Why Should We Hire You?

Summarize your experiences: "With five years' experience working in the financial industry and my proven record of saving the company money, I could make a big difference in your company. I'm confident I would be a great addition to your team."

Why Do You Want to Work Here?

The interviewer is listening for an answer that indicates you've given this some thought and are not sending out resumes just because there is an opening. For example, "I've selected key companies whose mission statements are in line with my values, where I know I could be excited about what the company does, and this company is very high on my list of desirable choices."

What Are Your Goals?

Sometimes it's best to talk about short-term and intermediate goals rather than locking yourself into the distant future. For example, "My immediate goal is to get a job in a growth-oriented company. My long-term goal will depend on where the company goes. I hope to eventually grow into a position of responsibility."

Why Did You Leave (Or Why Are You Leaving) Your Job?

If you're unemployed, state your reason for leaving in a positive context: "I managed to survive two rounds of corporate downsizing, but the third round was a 20 percent reduction in the workforce, which included me."

If you are employed, focus on what you want in your next job: "After two years, I made the decision to look for a company that is team-focused, where I can add my experience."

When Were You Most Satisfied in Your Job?

The interviewer wants to know what motivates you. If you can relate an example of a job or project when you were excited, the interviewer will get an idea of your preferences. "I was very satisfied in my last job, because I worked directly with the customers and their problems; that is an important part of the job for me."

What Can You Do for Us That Other Candidates Can't?

What makes you unique? This will take an assessment of your experiences, skills and traits. Summarize concisely: "I have a unique combination of strong technical skills, and the ability to build strong customer relationships. This allows me to use my knowledge and break down information to be more user-friendly."

What Are Three Positive Things Your Last Boss Would Say About You?

It's time to pull out your old performance appraisals and boss's quotes. This is a great way to brag about yourself through someone else's words: "My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can rely on me, and he likes my sense of humor."

What Salary Are You Seeking?

It is to your advantage if the employer tells you the range first. Prepare by knowing the going rate in your area, and your bottom line or walk-away point. One possible answer would be: "I am sure when the time comes, we can agree on a reasonable amount. In what range do you typically pay someone with my background?"

If You Were an Animal, Which One Would You Want to Be?

Interviewers use this type of psychological question to see if you can think quickly. If you answer "a bunny," you will make a soft, passive impression. If you answer "a lion," you will be seen as aggressive. What type of personality would it take to get the job done? What impression do you want to make? 2

Ask the right questions.

Happiness on the job sometimes comes down to one person: Your manager. Your manager can matter more than money, title or benefits. People don't always quit jobs, they sometimes quit bosses. Many workers leave a position because they're unhappy with their bosses. On the other hand, if you genuinely like and respect your boss, your job can be rewarding, fulfilling and even fun. But how can you ensure that you and your potential boss will get along? While there are no guarantees, you can often recognize a boss who's right for you -- if you ask the right questions.

The Ideal Employee

Do you want to know what your potential manager will expect from you?

Ask her, "What's your ideal employee like?"

If her ideal employee works long hours on a regular basis, expect to do the same.

If her ideal employee is someone who never questions procedure, don't plan to arrive and immediately implement new ideas.

If her ideal employee works independently, rest assured that you won't be micro-managed.

You're likely to be happier on the job if you and your potential manager have similar working styles. After all, everyone deserves a manager who thinks that they're the ideal employee.

The Skinny on the Staff

You can tell a lot about your potential manager from his staff.

Ask him, "Can you tell me about the people I'd be working with? How long have you worked with them?"

Pay attention to how well your potential boss seems to know his staff. Can he list their individual accomplishments? Is he proud of them?

Note his tone and energy when he talks about his team. Does he sound upbeat and positive? Or is there a hint of frustration or disappointment in his voice?

Also note how long his staff has worked with him. High turnover can be a red flag, and happy employees are more likely to stay put.

Results and Rewards

Do you want to excel on the job? If so, then you need to know how a potential manager defines excellence.

Ask her, "How do you measure success on the job?"

You may be accountable to complete projects to deadline and under budget. Or perhaps you'll need to reach a certain benchmark in your performance, for example a dollar value in revenue or a percentage of satisfied customers.

You should also ask about the typical career path for an employee who successfully meets his goals. After all, you want to work for a manager who recognizes and rewards excellence.

A Problem Solved

Sooner or later, a problem will arise. And you need to know how a potential manager will handle it.

Ask him, "What's your approach to solving problems?"

Knowing how a potential manager solves problems can give you insight into his management style. Does he prefer to take charge and make a decision independently? Does he delegate the decision to a staff member? Or does he favor a more collaborative style of problem solving?

Finally, keep in mind that a potential boss' overall attitude toward answering questions can be very telling about his management style. If he's open to questions and answers thoughtfully, he's likely also open to exploring and improving his working relationships. And that's one quality that makes for a great manager. 3

How to follow-up

A thank you letter is a necessity during the job-hunt process, and unfortunately a great number of people overlook this part of the interview process. However, the poor follow-up of others can lead to your benefit, as it will make you stand out from the other candidates if you are the only (or one of few) individual(s) to send one.

Therefore, in order to have an impact on the hiring decision, you must insure that your letter is sent ASAP (preferably, the same day as your interview) – if a candidate for the job has been chosen before your letter is sent, obviously your letter will have no impact on the decision process – Therefore, time is of the essence.

You should send a thank you letter after an informational or formal interview, company visit, or other career exploration activity. In addition, we recommend sending a thank you letter when someone provides you with job search assistance such as referring you to an employer, providing a network contact, or speaking on your behalf to a prospective employer. Bottom line, when in doubt - send a thank you letter – there is nothing wrong with being over courteous.

When writing your letter, tailor it to the company and the interview. Please refrain from sending a generic thank you letter that you copied from a book – this will only prove your inability to do your own work. Instead, tailor it to the recipient and re-cap some of the highlights from your interview. In addition to not sounding generic, your interviewer met 10-30 people regarding the position – make him/her remember who you are and stand out.

Additionally, a thank you letter will allow you the opportunity to explain, restate, or clarify any potential misunderstandings that occurred during the interview. In addition, during the interview you most likely learned a new fact about the position or company – In your thank you letter, you can tweak the copy to re-emphasize your strengths, accomplishments and skills that target your new findings.

Outline of a Standard Thank You Letter:

First paragraph: Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you and remind him/her of the position for which you interviewed.

Second paragraph: Reiterate your sincere interest in the position and company. Be sure to mention something you learned from the interview or comment on something of importance that you discussed – This will make you stand out from the other applicants. Emphasize your strengths, experiences, skills, and accomplishments. As noted previously, tweak them towards the points that the interviewer considered the most important for the position.

Third paragraph: End by thanking the interviewer for his/her time and consideration. If you feel it is appropriate, close with a suggestion for next steps (a second interview perhaps), or mention that you plan to follow up with a phone call in a few days. 4
2© 2007 Monster - All Rights Reserved
3© 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
4© 2007 How to Write A All Rights Reserved.

Gear up for a New Job

Want to succeed at your new job? Start before you start.

Starting a new job does not begin on your first day. It starts the day you receive an offer. Use the time before you report for work to prepare for the challenge ahead.

Recognize that, whatever the level of the job, there will be a "settling in" period in which you will require both extra concentration and positive support. Both your private and working lives will change. So it makes sense to discuss these changes with your family before they occur.

Discuss issues like child care, hours, commuting, etc. If you are relocating for your new job, you and your entire family will go through some major adjustments.

Research the background of a new employer.

The more you know about your new employer, the easier it will be for you during the first few months of employment. Expand on the research you will--or should--have carried out prior to your interview.

If you don't already have a copy of the new employer's annual report, obtain one. Identify:

  • Your new employer's competitors.
  • Their relative degree of success or failure.
  • The basis on which they compete (such as price, quality, or service) or are protected from competition (because of location or access to raw materials for example).

Talk to people you know about the company. Goal: to learn all you can about the culture of the organization, the people with whom you will be working, the structure within which they work, and the reputation of the department you will be joining.

Learn about the industry if you are new to it. Search the Internet for trade journals and Web sites. You can even ask your new employer to supply you with information that you can review before you come to work for them. Most employers would be happy to provide you with these resources.

Discover the background of the job opportunity.

If you haven’t already, seek to find out if your job is newly created or if you’re replacing someone. If the former, find out whether it was created to solve a problem and if so, what problem?

For example, was it to cope with expansion in activity and if so, what caused the expansion? Find out the structural context of the newly created job, future plans for it, and, most of all, special expectations of you as the newly appointed jobholder. Is the job unique in the organization or are there others like it?

Try to identify what characteristics and skills you are bringing to the job which made you the best person for it. Remember that these characteristics and skills will be used to evaluate your performance.

Add to your existing knowledge about the job.

Learning the following information will improve your job success probability:

  • The purpose of the department.
  • The purpose of your new job.
  • Your responsibilities.
  • Your authority.
  • The structure of the department and company.
  • The department’s place in the organization.
  • To whom you report and your boss's requirements.
  • Who, if anyone, reports to you.
  • As much as possible about the culture and values of the unit and of the organization.
  • Whether relationships are formal or informal--does this apply to all of them?

Make sure you are clear on practical matters, such as:

  • Starting and finishing times (formal and real).
  • Lunch and break arrangements.
  • The use of the telephone for private calls.
  • Performance appraisal.
  • Employee benefits.
  • The position on unions.
  • Dress code (formal, business casual, or informal).

What you need to know may range from the obviously important to the apparently trivial. However, if it helps you become accepted and begin to achieve the purpose of your new job more quickly, it is worth knowing. This may apply even more if you have been appointed to a newly created job.

Get ready to feel bewildered!

You will meet a lot of new people and learn many new processes, both directly related to your job or unrelated like learning to use the photocopier. Most people don't feel fully comfortable in their new job for at least six months, so be patient with yourself.

Survive Your First Few Days

Finally, you’re starting your new job. Are you ready to hit the ground running?

You’re entering a period of intense learning and growth. But while you’re learning, you must also get productive fast.

Starting a new job demands confidence. Don’t worry if you have doubts. Just keep them to yourself and appear as confident as possible to others. P

art of demonstrating confidence is looking the part. So dress your very best for your first day. Also, make sure to arrive early. If you’re traveling a new route, by car or mass transit, leave time for contingencies.

Now, when you arrive, remember that first impressions are very important. So walk in with a smile on your face, a bounce to your step, and your eyes ready to make contact.

When you meet people, be polite and friendly and be sure to give firm handshakes. Try to remember names as best you can.

In your initial conversations, take note of people’s responsibilities. Feel free to ask them questions about what they do. If you’re not sure of something, ask. People usually will be more than willing to help.

During your first week and months on the job, don’t challenge the way people do things. And never, ever utter the words, “That’s not how we did it where I used to work.” You don’t want them to think, “Well, why don’t you go back there?”

Other tips for adjusting to your new job:

  • Ask questions. You’re better off asking someone for help than doing something wrong and having to re-do your work.
  • Let people get to know you and try to get to know others.
  • Use your lunch and coffee breaks to bond with your colleagues. Limit lunches with those at your old job; they represent the past. Your new colleagues represent the future.
  • Make sure people who give you assignments have the authority to do so.
  • Uncover who has influence, both officially and unofficially.
  • Listen to the grapevine, but don't contribute to it. You don't want people to think you’re a gossip monger.
  • Don't say negative things about your boss or your co-workers.
  • Come to work early and stay a little late, if possible.
  • Be open to projects or people needing help. But don’t neglect your current assignments.
  • Remain open-minded. You’re an employee now, not a candidate. So you will see the negatives as well as the positives about your new job and employer. Be patient while a well-rounded picture emerges.

Enroll in Employee Benefits

Make good decisions about your employee benefits. They’re not so "fringe" anymore.

Employers have to compete for the best human resources. Part of that process is offering benefits to attract and retain employees.

Because your new employer has developed a package of benefits designed to get the best, take advantage of it. Since you may have several plans from which to choose, be sure to make informed decisions.

As a new employee there are some decisions that you will need to make, most within 31 or 60 days from your date of hire.

Check with your Human Resources or Employee Benefits manager for information on your specific benefit options.

Develop a Financial Plan

Congratulations on your steady paycheck. Time to lay the groundwork for financial security.

Now that you’re earning income, you’re ready to start saving money—and build a financial plan for the future.

Spend some time thinking and talking with family members about what you would like to achieve financially. What would make you and them happy? What would be fulfilling? Retire early? Acquire a vacation home? Pursue a hobby? Travel?

© CPA Site Solutions

Review Your Insurance

Insurance isn’t just for old people. It’s for anyone with a future to protect.

You work hard to earn a living. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to hard-working people. With insurance, you can weather these events—and stay on track financially.

Shopping for insurance

Let's face it: It's hard to buy a product that you can't see and really hope you'll never use. But unless you're wealthy enough to weather any foreseeable (and unforeseeable) financial storms, it's time to start shopping for insurance.

Where to buy it

When it comes to buying insurance, you have a number of options. You can purchase a relatively straightforward, low-maintenance policy (e.g., term life, auto) directly from an insurance company or through one of the many insurance websites. The premiums for some (but not all) policies purchased in this way may be somewhat lower due to reduced transaction costs, but in most cases you will select this option for convenience and product choices, not to save money. Buying on-line allows you to compare quotes very easily and at your own pace, without any sales pressure.

When your insurance needs are more complex, or when you simply want advice and assistance, an insurance agent or broker can guide you through the process. There are two types of insurance agents: independent and exclusive. Independent agents generally represent several companies, while exclusive agents represent only one company.

Choosing the right company

Low premiums and great features mean very little if your insurance company is not around to pay a claim. Even if it does not go out of business, a company in financial distress may reduce interest crediting to a life insurance policy, stop paying dividends, and limit policyowner service. Consequently, you should be concerned about the financial strength of the company.

A number of companies, including A. M. Best, Standard & Poor's, Moody's, and Weiss Ratings, rate insurers. These companies provide both letter ratings and full reports of an insurance company's health. Explanations of letter ratings are usually available on the websites of these companies. The insurance companies themselves will also provide the letter rating if you request it. Although the highest ratings may not be an absolute necessity for the company that you select, you should avoid companies that have very low ratings, are on "credit watch," or have received other negative comments from the rating services.

After you've found several insurers with good ratings, you should make sure that those companies have good customer-service records. Word-of-mouth recommendations can give you an idea of the quality of service that others have received. However, there are many insurance companies, and it may be difficult to get a clear picture of a company by asking others. You may want to check the company's website or even call its toll-free number and speak to a customer service representative about the services provided after the sale. You can also check with your state's department of insurance to see if any complaints have been filed against the insurer. Fewer complaints generally indicate a quality insurer.

The insurance-buying process

Whether you're looking to purchase life, health, auto, or another type of insurance, the buying process is essentially the same. You can get a preliminary quote by contacting the insurer, or an agent, by phone or on-line. But when it's time to purchase a policy, you may have to fill out an application and, depending on the type of insurance, answer a series of questions (and, if purchasing life or health insurance, take a medical exam) to determine exactly how much the coverage you need will cost.

After you submit your application to the insurer, the underwriting process begins. Although this process varies depending on the type of insurance you purchase, it typically involves the underwriter confirming the information you stated on your application and gathering additional information about you from various sources, such as:

  • The insurance agent (if you used one)
  • Credit agencies such as Dun & Bradstreet
  • The Medical Information Bureau (for life and health insurance)
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Physical examinations and lab tests
  • Your doctor and hospital medical records

Using the information gathered, the underwriter will decide whether to approve your application, issue a policy with an extra premium, or decline coverage.

© 2003 Forefield, Inc.